The Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Ind., is protesting the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy by locking statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a cage. The chain-link cage is displayed prominently on the front lawn and is a part of the church’s Every Family is Holy campaign.
The display went up at 10 p.m. on Monday as a direct response to the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy. Despite Trump's executive order ending family separations, thousands of families are still separated, with no hope of reunification or asylum. The cage mimics the chain-link cages children were placed inside after being taken from their parents.
The church's Reverend Canon Lee Curtis, who initially came up with the symbolic protest, said:
The statement with the Holy Family says as much about our policy as any statement would say. We want an end for family detention. Families, all families, every family, is holy, and we hope and pray that families who are seeking out a better life for their kids are afforded that opportunity.
Curtis went on to discuss how the zero-tolerance policy goes against everything the Christ Church preaches:
A number of our congregants at the cathedral are first or second-generation immigrants and this situation is not abstract to them and this is not abstract for us,” he said. “This is something that we preach and teach about, and we are partnering with other groups in the state in order to see meaningful reform for detention and deportation. We walked and supported people through ICE deportation proceedings before too.
The church's dean Steve Carlson commented on the choice of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus as the biblical figures in the cage:
They were a homeless family with nowhere to stay. I think our faith tells us where we need to be. The fact that it's controversial isn't because I want to be controversial. What's controversial is that we're turning away from the values that should be guiding us. The point of a religious icon is to move our hearts. If at first, people are upset by it, that might just be God trying to move their hearts. I hope their hearts soften.
The Christ Church also spoke out on politicians’ recent use of scripture to justify the zero-tolerance policy. Carlson said:
We’ve heard scripture quoted to support these [immigration] policies. I know what the Bible says. I know what our faith traditions say. I know how we’re supposed to treat our neighbors. We’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our scripture is very clear how we’re to receive those families who come to us, seeking safety for their children seeking safety for themselves — it’s the same thing my family wanted three generations ago, when they came here from Norway.
Christ Church isn’t the first religious organization to bring awareness to and condemn Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. In June, a group of 640 United Methodist clergy and laity said they would be bringing church law charges against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the zero-tolerance policy. The charges are aimed at the zero-tolerance policy and include child abuse, immortality, racial discrimination and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the stands of the doctrine of the United Methodist Church. Pope Francis spoke out against the policy, agreeing with the statement put out by U.S. Catholic Bishops that called the separation of immigrant families “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral.” Even Session’s pastor at Clarendon United Methodist Church told her congregation that she does not agree with the zero-tolerance policy but urged the church not to be torn apart by it.
As for Christ Church Cathedral, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus will remain in the cage on the front lawn in protest of Trump’s policy. When asked by reporters how long the fence will surround the statues, Carlson said, “How long are we going to keep detaining families indefinitely?”